The Service Makes the Product

PayNorthwest COO Lori Brown (left) and CEO Mike Anderson (right).

Brand Story – PayNorthwest’s near-perfect client retention rate is attributed to dedicated service and best-in-class.

Share this article!

Human capital management software organizes data from payroll, human resources, and time and labor tracking into a single platform, increasing productivity and efficiency by automating and streamlining these critical workforce processes.

Human capital management started on paper—filing cabinets stuffed with employee W-4s, performance reviews, time tracking cards. Cabinets then became spreadsheets with the adoption of Excel. As technology evolved, companies like ADP and Paychex emerged by creating automated systems.

But when Mike Anderson was operating a small accounting firm in 2007, he saw the same recurring issue: Small and medium-sized businesses working with ADP and Paychex weren’t getting the service and attention they needed. “Their calls went unanswered and issues lingered forever,” says Anderson. “These were high-demand users with complex situations. They needed a single point of contact—not to be passed through a phone tree.”

Meanwhile, smaller companies were beginning to develop and license their own products. Anderson narrowed his needs, enlisted the help of software consultants and scoured the market for the best human capital management solution. Finally, they found their match: a small, privately-held software company in New Jersey whose product fit his exact specifications—cloud-based, mobile-friendly, highly secure and a single database with one user interface to handle HR, payroll, time and benefits.

JEK 1933PayNorthwest is the largest independent human capital management solution provider in the Pacific NW.

PayNorthwest was launched in 2008. The Seattle-based company implements human capital management software for companies that have between 10 and 2,000 employees. It specializes in medium-sized or high-growth businesses with complex requirements—especially ones who view technology as a path to reaching business goals and to being a better employer—while providing responsive customer service, technical support and training.

“Small and medium-sized businesses don’t have the resources to hire super-expensive software consultants,” says Anderson. “That’s where we come in.”
Anderson equates PayNorthwest to regional banks. Clients can get similar capabilities from national competitors, but PayNorthwest serves those who prioritize responsive customer service, long-term relationships and deep familiarity with their company.

The ‘regional bank mentality’ has worked. PayNorthwest has made Inc 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies for four years in a row. In the past eight years, the company has grown from 115 clients to more than 1,000 and serves companies in all 50 states. But most impressively, the company upholds a 96% client retention rate.

COO Lori Brown attributes that number to the company’s customer service.

JEK 1903COO Lori Brown.

PayNorthwest begins each new client relationship with an in-depth discovery process: interviewing employees, visiting the company and understanding its nuances. Then, their team configures and tailors the software around the business’s exact HR and payroll needs. Once implemented, each client has a direct line to its dedicated specialist, along with trainings and free webinars for improving HR processes. By providing one point of contact and accountability, clients know exactly who to turn to when they need help.

Most importantly, PayNorthwest views itself fundamentally as a service organization, not a tech vendor. “When clients have an issue, we know it’s the most important thing happening for them in that moment,” says Brown. “Our culture says to match that level of care, for every single one of our accounts.”

PayNorthwest’s human capital management software is particularly suited for Oregon businesses. Brown says the software can accommodate tax deductions and compliance regulations for employees who work and live in different counties or states. Companies with job costing requirements, seasonal workers, 24-hour operations or intricate compliance regulations can especially benefit from the software, such as manufacturers and healthcare providers.

JEK 1976Bright colors greet visitors to PayNorthwest’s Seattle offices.

Being a regional company, PayNorthwest can stay on top of the area’s shifting laws—such as Portland’s recently amended sick leave—in a way that big-box payroll vendors cannot.

According to Brown, the available data from human capital management software lends unprecedented insights for business owners. In a report from Lighthouse Research & Advisory, 73% of companies that installed the software reported greater likelihood of better analytics and insight (with 86% realizing tangible benefits within 12 months of installation). “People see payroll systems as a way to calculate taxes and payroll,” says Brown. “But that’s not its true function.”

“They should be looking at these systems as a way to understand their business better.”

For example, human capital management software reveals labor cost per division, recruiting and hiring metrics, and analytics around expiring certifications. Employers can gauge employee satisfaction by analyzing patterns in leaves and absences. “This isn’t just about saving time with HR or payroll,” says Brown. “This is really a next-level view into business analytics.”

Clients who choose PayNorthwest as a partner can rest assured that the company has signed up for the long haul.

Anderson’s initial goal while building the business was to create a company that outlived him, an “evergreen” company with a strong sense of purpose and values. “I’m not about selling to my kids—they have no interest in taking over the business anyway,” he jokes. “It’s about serving our clients. One of their biggest fears is: what would we do without you?”

“Well, nothing is certain. But we have no plans of going anywhere.”


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.